CEO Coaching: From Fear to Curiosity

I recently heard a piece on National Public Radio celebrating the 40th anniversary of “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.” In his recap, the reporter highlighted the children’s transition from fear to curiosity in response to meeting the alien.

This concept struck me. What a wonderful perspective! Perhaps not if you encounter a ravenous grizzly bear by yourself in the woods, but in most situations—business or not—we’d be well-served if we intentionally made this transition from fear to curiosity. 

Not just fear, by the way, but also sadness, repulsion, anxiety, and other debilitating emotions. Why am I anxious or sad? How could I better understand this?

Back to fear… If, as a business leader, you were curious more often, how much more success might you have? Fear too often causes temporary paralysis or flight. Although appropriate in response to some wild animals, it isn’t effective when encountering a highly functional but disruptive employee, a failing section of your business, a board member with a personal agenda, when speaking to a large audience, or when talking to a large customer with a significant complaint. 

In those cases, you’re better off being curious. Why is this happening? What’s the best resolution for the business (not just my current desire to avoid!)? What are my options? What are the unintended consequences of avoiding this situation? You get the picture.

It’ll take some work, but I guarantee that if you focus, you can change your perspective. I’ve had many clients reframe situations to their advantage. Don’t start with your worst fear; pick one or two that hold you back and substitute curiosity for fear. A grizzly bear won’t eat you, and there’s a good chance you (and your company) will be better for it.

It’s hard to eliminate fear, but you can manage it and act in spite of it! Calm yourself and be curious!

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